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Vermonters Share Their Hopes For Travel When Pandemic Is Over

two people with a baby in the snow

People who have been vaccinated for COVID-19 can now leave Vermont and see friends and family without quarantining. As the vaccine rollout continues, more and more people can look forward to traveling and seeing loved ones they haven’t seen in months.Vreni Gust got pregnant last January, when most Americans thought COVID-19 was just a rumor about a nasty virus that might end up in the United States.

Due to the pandemic, her pregnancy and the eventual birth of her first child did not exactly go as planned.

“When we pictured what having this baby was going to be like, we pictured lots of people coming in and out of our house helping us,” Gust said. “You know, we pictured bringing him to meet people. Definitely maybe having some people visit us in the hospital. So of course that all changed with the pandemic.”

Her son August was born in October, and Gust said one of the hardest parts of last year was not being able to introduce her son to the rest of his family.

More from VPR: Frequently Asked Questions (And Answers) About The COVID-19 Vaccine In Vermont

“So yeah, he hasn’t been able to meet his great-grandmothers yet. Which is a bit of a bummer,” Gust said. “Especially because [for] his grandmother in New Jersey, this is her first great-grandchild, so she’s really excited to meet August, and we just haven’t been able to take him to New Jersey yet. So we’re hoping this summer — when things ease up a little bit, or hopefully they’ll ease up a little bit — we’ll be able to get him over there.”

Gov. Scott started to restrict travel into and out of Vermont in the summer, as case numbers in nearby states began to spike.

By early November, Scott asked all Vermonters to limit their travel, to not leave the state without quarantining upon return, and not to gather with other households.

"I'm looking forward to seeing something besides the ten miles around my house. We haven't even left the Upper Valley since the fall."- David Watts, Norwich resident

David Watts works in long term care, and his wife is a teacher, so he says his family has been following the governor’s travel restrictions to a tee.

“I’m looking forward to seeing something besides the ten miles around my house,” Watts said. “We haven’t even left the Upper Valley since the fall.”

Watts lives in Norwich, and he said there’s a burger joint outside of Hartford, Conn., where he grew up, that's been on his mind.

It was the place the family went after sporting events or for family gatherings and when this is all over, Watts wants to get all of his cousins and nieces and nephews together, reserve a few booths, and order a cheeseburger.

“They use four pieces of cheese. And they let the cheese fall off of the burger and fry on the griddle. And so when you get this cheeseburger, it has these rings of fried cheese coming out from under the bun,” Watts said. “And it is the most delicious comfort food that you can imagine, and it just brings back a lot of memories for me; a lot of memories of home and of family.”

Credit Cynthia Watts
David Watts, right, and his daughter Caroline, who was seven at the time, at their favorite burger joint, Shady Glen, in Manchester, Ct.

For Juliet Mas, the promise of widespread vaccinations means she'll be able to visit some of the friends she left in Connecticut when she moved to Springfield  in October.

She said she hasn’t been outside of Vermont since the move.

“It was a little upsetting and a little, like, scary, because I have so many friends in Connecticut, and knowing that I’m not going to see them for a long time made me feel kind of lonely,” Mas said. “You know, who knows how much time any of us have? It doesn’t even have to be dying by COVID, [it could be] anything, you know? It’s just really sad.”

So Mas is looking forward to having some of her old friends up to Vermont, as well as heading down to bop around her old neighborhood.

“I love the West Haven beach,” she said. “It used to be 1 mile away from my house. I would ride my bike there. And then on Sundays, they have the line dancing down at the boardwalk there. There's a deck where they have the line dances all the way up to sunset. It's so much fun, and I really miss that.”

When VPR asked people some of the places they were looking forward to visiting, we heard about beaches, and national parks, and restaurants that were high on the list.

For Becky Bartlett, of Brattleboro, the first place she’s heading is Maine, to walk the dog with her father, who's almost ninety.

“It’s the normal things, the normal things that we do with each other that we can’t do,” said Bartlett. “And I think things like sitting around a table and eating, talking, and laughing and eating, and cooking together, and cleaning up after we’re together. Just the normal things that we’ve always done.”

"It's the normal things, the normal things that we do with each other that we can't do ... things like sitting around a table and eating, talking, and laughing and eating, and cooking together, and cleaning up after we're together."- Becky Bartlett, Brattleboro resident

Liz Cassell was married in September, 2001, just before 9/11. She and her husband are now bookending their twentieth anniversary with the end of a pandemic.

Cassell said they had been planning on returning to a Canadian hotel they visited more than a decade ago.

More from VPR: 'There's Some Gaps': Racial Justice Advocate Calls For Vt. To Revisit COVID Vax Plan

“It’s very romantic,” Cassell said. “It has, you know, suites that are kind of like your own living room with fireplaces and gorgeous linens. And then the food, I just remember the food being so special that you wanted to eat it really slowly. And there were like five courses. And you know, nothing to do except for spend time with each other. So it would be nice to get away.”

For some people, the relaxed travel restrictions mean a visit to northern Vermont to see an aging relative. Others imagine a flight to the West Coast, or even a delayed trip to Europe. One thing's consistent: it's been a long winter, and the light at the end of the tunnel grows brighter with every vaccination shot that's administered across the state.

Have questions, comments or tips?Send us a message or get in touch with reporter Howard Weiss-Tisman@hweisstisman.

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Howard Weiss-Tisman is Vermont Public’s southern Vermont reporter, but sometimes the story takes him to other parts of the state.
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